Diet and Disease: A Real Relationship
Last night, my family and I went to a chain restaurant for dinner. I donít ordinarily go to rib joints, but my husband and daughter looked beseechingly at me when we were deciding where to go. They usually agree to one of the locally owned and healthier restaurants I insist upon, but last night I gave into their round eyes and watering mouths as they imagined a big rack of BBQ ribs.
Although I was a pretty good eater before I had cancer, I didnít care as much then as I do now about what goes into my mouth. But cancer can rock your world, and after my third diagnosis I became a raw foodist, grew my own sprouts and wheatgrass, abandoned caffeine and alcohol, and in a short time, felt more energy than I had ever experienced before. I maintained this (labor intensive) lifestyle for 18 months, cheating only once as I snuck a single bite from the perfectly cooked Thanksgiving turkey I pulled from the oven. It tasted very oily and strange. I was no longer tempted.
My intent was to create the very best internal and external environments possible. For the external atmosphere, I chose deliberately who I spent time with, what I read and watched on TV, which movies to see, and how much I pushed myself. For my internal environment, I wanted to boost my immune system, detoxify and to purify my blood, decrease the PH level, and to eat living foods with an abundance of enzymes and nourishment. I loved eating that way. Uncooked food prepared in just the right way is as good as any gourmet cooked food Iíve ever had.
I returned to eating animal products only after my intuitive acupuncturist sensed that the post-radiation pain I had might be minimized by eating more eggs, fish, beef and some chicken. I hesitated only for about an hour, having convinced myself that eating raw food was a significant reason why my cancer was resolved. But I love a good burger and I wanted to see if changing my diet might help with the pain. So I dashed home and enjoyed a burger like never before.
Going back to some meat helped my pain somewhat, but mostly it changed my lifestyle. I was grateful to be more socially flexible when invited to dinner or going out. Still, I vowed to eat cage-free eggs and organic or hormone-free meats whenever possibleówhich wasnít the case at the restaurant we visited last night. I had mashed potatoes.
As my happy family chowed down on pork ribsóan indulgence they rarely give intoóI looked at the people around us. An alarming percentage were not just overweight, they were obese. My heart sank.
Only with certain diseases do doctors recommend a change of diet. But rarely does a conventional medical professional recommend dietary changes to people with cancer, multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, depression and a long list of other challenging conditions.
While writing my book, Embrace, Release, Heal: An Empowering Guide to Talking About, Thinking About and Treating Cancer, I interviewed Dr. Barry Boyd, a nutritional oncologist for Yale University and its affiliate health centers. Dr. Boyd keeps a close eye on studies conducted around the globe that peer into the relationship between food and cancer. There has been promising news in several studies about low-fat diets and breast cancer. Dr. Boyd was about to share the good news at a meeting for oncologists when this happened:
ďAfter a seven-year study of American women, it was concluded that this low-fat diet seemed to make a big difference. But that same year, a breast cancer drug called Herceptin came out. Both the drug and low-fat diet data were presented at the same meeting, but the uproar and excitement about the Herceptin data was dramatic, while the low-fat study garnered limited interest among the attendees. This was even though the data on the nutritional study showed more success in the estrogen-nonresponsive women than the Herceptin did in the HER2-positive women.
ďThe bottom line is this: if youíre talking about lifestyle change, whether itís through exercise or nutrition, itís not going to make money for anyone, including doctors. Perhaps more importantly, if physicians donít understand the biology of nutrition and lifestyle, they canít imagine how it can be as effective as a pharmacologic agent. They just donít believe the data. Itís a failure of education and, more importantly, imagination!Ē
Even if our doctors donít possess the imagination to connect the dots between diet and disease, we do. With a computer at our disposal, we can find plenty of credible resources and reams of advice on what to eat to stay or get healthy. And many of them are disease specific.
If youíve never read any of Dr. Mark Hymanís books, they can fill you with more information than you know how to digest. Plus, heís not just an MD practicing a new way of treating disease; he was flattened by fibromyalgia and learned through diet primarily, how to bounce back. Also, check out the articles and videos by Dr. Joe Mercola. You may not agree with everything he says, but youíll learn a lot about wise health choices.
Doctors typically diagnose conditions, then prescribe drugs. Thatís their job. But our job is to be in charge of the whole package. Letís be imaginative about how food impacts our health and wellness. When you think about it, you can put BBQ sauce on almost anything, including a low-fat veggie burger!
© Leigh Fortson, Excerpt from Embrace, Release, Heal: An Empowering Guide to Talking About, Thinking About and Treating Cancer(Sounds True Publishing, 2011)